John MacDonnell finally managed to get to Birmingham yesterday (4/1/2007) when he spoke at a meeting organised by BTUC. He appealed for a party which was a coalition of more than one faction, a situation which had come about under New Labour engineered by Blair, Mandelson and Brown and underlined in John Reid’s speech. John Smith had put into practice appointing a Cabinet from a wide coalition. (I believe though that he didn’t have too much time for the likes of Mandelson).
As with us in Birmingham, John MacDonnell worked tirelessly against the Thatcher Tory government, but it wasn’t to see endless privatisation or reckless foreign policy. He acknowledged Blair was now saying we needed a broad coalition, but that was far from what he was practising. He saw an irony in the misadventure of Iraq, which was likely to be Blair’s legacy, instead of recognising the effort he had made in Northern Ireland to bring about a settlement there.
Questions were asked about Labour Party membership, which has declined sharply. Instead of branches functioning with members providing resolutions to conference, they were lectured on what to do and say. At party conference members were given texts to read out – they acted in a way that “even Stalin would have been embarrassed!”
On Venezuela John McDonnell felt strongly that an opportunity to support socialism here and across Latin America was being missed. The U.S. in particular had tried to undermine Chavez and we could have given him our support.
As this was a union meeting involving Labour and non-Labour members, he urged the socialist movement to work together to support socialism within the Labour Party and Government. Raghib Ahsan, who had been driven out of Labour, said that as a union branch leader he would urge members to give their support.
As for the media, even the Guardian had joined the Islingtom “dinner party set” and getting coverage of his campaign was difficult. The number of hits on his website had been significant, however.